July 13, 2002

"Prayer of Jabez" author Bruce Wilkinson's plans to relocate from Atlanta to California took a drastic turn. He's going to Africa instead.

Wilkinson, 55, and his wife, Darlene, will keep their home in Atlanta but plan to move Aug. 30 to South Africa, where they bought a home two weeks ago. They will minister to the hungry and AIDS orphans there and train African church leaders to help solve the problems.

Their son David and his wife, Angie, already are living in South Africa, where David Wilkinson is training pastors. Daughter Jessica, 15, will move with Bruce and Darlene Wilkinson.

Bruce Wilkinson announced in February that he was leaving Walk Thru the Bible, the Atlanta-based ministry he founded 25 years ago to teach the Scriptures. At that time, he said he would be settling in California to pursue ministry through television and film.

He did start a film company, Ovation Productions, that has a team of 65 people in South Africa filming "Beat the Drum," the story of a little boy who loses his parents to AIDS. The company also is producing a $25 million movie on "The Prayer of Jabez."

But when the Wilkinsons were in South Africa, Nigeria and Ghana in May, "we were broadsided by the overwhelming need that is in Africa right now."

Millions of people are dying of hunger. And a new report released at the 14th International Conference on AIDS, held in Barcelona, Spain, this week, estimated more than 11 million children under 15 have lost one or both parents to AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa, with scientists estimating that number will grow to more than 20 million in eight years.

The Wilkinsons --- seeing those statistics in a far more human way --- decided to live there for the next few years.

Bruce Wilkinson was already an established author and minister when he was catapulted to international fame through "The Prayer of Jabez," a small volume based on a one-sentence prayer by an Israelite man who made a cameo appearance in 1 Chronicles 4:10. It sold more than 8.3 million copies last year.

"Wherever I travel, people come up to tell me their experiences," he said. "The refrain I hear is, 'Let me tell you what God did when I prayed the prayer of Jabez.' "

The follow-up to "Prayer of Jabez," called "Secrets of the Vine," also followed in its footsteps on the best seller lists. He is working on a third, called "A Life God Rewards --- Why Everything You Do Today Matters Forever."

"It's a very revolutionary book because Jesus . . . had [a] lot to say about how what happens to you after you die is based on how you lived on earth,' " he said.

"The Prayer of Jabez for Women" by Darlene Wilkinson is now the country's No. 1 Christian best seller. She's also working on a "Secrets of the Vine for Women."

The move to Africa is a result of Jabez on more than one level, Bruce Wilkinson says.

Money from sales of Jabez books and products has been "a wonderful provision to do many things we've asked God to let us do." Last year, for instance, he produced a six-part video series called "God's Answer to HIV-AIDS" that has been shown across southern Africa, dealing with issues such as sexuality, responsibility and forgiveness.

And, he thinks God's call to the continent is an answer to his own petition.

Using the prayer of Jabez, Wilkinson said he has prayed for 30 years that God would use him for greater service.

"If you're serious about that, you can't have any restrictions on where God sends you," he said. "Our family is brokenhearted by the circumstances in Africa. We feel this is what God wants us to do."

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